The gift of Christmas
• Christmas has become a festival of economic inflation and inflated expectations. Few seem aware that the recession is not just for Christmas but probably for life.
I had my first experience of the fury of this year's Christmas shopping on a recent trip to Dublin. The recession seemed to have taken a holiday; people were shopping as if there was no tomorrow.
Furrowed brows revealed the anguish of choosing presents. Christmas music rang out to inhibit any dampening of the acquisitive drive. It looked as if a decree had gone out from our leaders that every citizen was obliged to shop 'til they drop in order to stimulate growth in the economy.
The managers of the nation's finances are concerned with getting money into people's pockets so that they spend it; I get the distinct impression, however, that, thanks to the magnanimity of the credit card, more money is leaving pockets than is entering them.
Why presents? They are not needed, those destined to get them are unlikely to have spent the year anxiously waiting to see if some specific, intensely felt need would be fulfilled by the reception of a present.
We seem to have lost our sense of enough. We are persuaded by the marketing fraternity that Christmas is a time when we can wish for more than we need as it is officially the time for giving and receiving. On balance, the level of anxiety created in giving is not justified by the passing pleasure generated by the receiving.
Christmas, for many, has become an endurance test. Friends are beginning to ask if I am ready for Christmas -- an enquiry directed with the same tone of concern as when asked if I am ready for an impending bout of hospitalisation.
The only available relief from the relentless materialism surrounding Christmas is attendance at a traditional carol service, where one finds more than a hint that there is something deeply inspiring in the air.
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